Three leaders need strong performances in training camp


It’s hard to believe that NFL training camp is already here. Some teams have already started training. Meanwhile, the Kansas City Chiefs will have their rookie and quarterback report today, July 22. Other veterans will eventually show up and begin their work next week.

There are always certain elements that are synonymous with the start of NFL training camps. Hope and excitement are teetering on every fanbase. On top of that, the anxiety of seeing great plays in training camp creates a feeling of overzealousness about a practice. It also gives hope to newcomers to the team. In Kansas City, the Chiefs are full of them this season, as they take over St. Joseph, Missouri.

Some players have their roles carved in stone on the depth chart. Elsewhere, chefs have questions that need to be answered for specific positions. Who wins the starting position at right tackle? How many rookies make up the team and start right away? Also, are the Chiefs making any surprising cuts to veterans at the end of training camp?

Building on that last question, we draw our attention to some seasoned players on the Chiefs’ roster. Which ones could be among the final cuts at the end of the pre-season? Who faces fierce competition in their battle for position? Today, we’ll be listing three Chiefs players who need strong performances in training camp to make the team. Let’s start.


A few criteria were met to make this list. Surely, more names could be in the same boat when practices open in St. Joe. However, these three all have things in common. The competition at their given position may be the fiercest and stingiest of all position battles on Kansas City’s roster. Moreover, this player has either had ups and downs with the team or in his career, lacking consistent results. Finally, there may be specific questions about the long-term advantage this player can bring to the fold for the Chiefs. With that in mind, let’s move on to our first player.

Lucas Niang – Offensive tackle

Lucas Niang didn’t have the most desirable start to his NFL career. However, some of the unlucky moments he endured were not his fault. You can’t blame his personal choice for pulling out of the 2020 season, citing concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, controlling his health and maintaining proper technique has been a work in progress. It was further delayed with the injuries he suffered last season.

Because of these elements, Niang fell behind the eight ball, so to speak. The TCU product was one of the most productive right tackle blockers in college. He was even considered a steal for the Chiefs in the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Still, Niang was unable to hang on when he had the chance. Kansas City saw better results at right tackle from Andrew Wylie. And now Darian Kinnard arrives as a motivated rookie who fell on day three of the 2022 NFL Draft. If Niang can’t show signs of improving technically, the writing could be on the wall for his time with the Chiefs.

Khalen Saunders – Defensive tackle

Khalen Saunders had a fairly similar journey to that of Niang. Also a former third-round pick, the Western Illinois product has seen various injuries derail his potential push at defensive tackle. In fact, it moves quite easily for its size. To boot, Saunders has the ability to defend against the run and the pass. Beyond injuries, Saunders has been a healthy scratch throughout too many game days over the past two years. He’s actually only played 10 games in the past two years. It comes after making 12 appearances as a rookie in 2019. The up and down results for him individually, combined with sudden stops and starts for game time, have continued to give him a career dip.

Overall, defensive tackle depth is pretty rare for the Kansas City Chiefs. An opportunity to make an impact is there for the taking, as a result. Meanwhile, Saunders may have the second best advantage among the Chiefs in this position, when it comes to his ability to rush the passer. It wouldn’t be surprising to see a tweener like Tershawn Wharton earn more defensive snaps over defensive snaps this season. Most other defensive tackles are just jams or need a lot of technical refinement. If Saunders can’t show something in training camp and throughout the season, his time in Kansas City could be over after his rookie contract expires after this year.

Josh Gordon – Wide Receiver

Josh Gordon’s path to Kansas City was certainly different than the aforementioned Saunders or Niang. The veteran wide receiver was considered a possible replacement for Sammy Watkins last season. Starting out on the practice squad, Gordon was eventually elevated to the Chiefs’ active roster. He was seen as someone who could possibly impose his will on the bottom lanes, while also being able to quickly get on the defensive backs vertically.

It became apparent that more seasoning and meshing was needed between the Chiefs offense and Gordon. He appeared in a few games at the end of the year. Against the Las Vegas Raiders, he caught his only touchdown pass of the season. This success, however, was quickly rebuffed. Gordon was ultimately a healthy scratch in the regular season finale and early in the playoffs. The team eventually waived him, before finally re-signing Gordon to the practice squad.

It’s no secret that plenty of worthy contenders are looking to clinch their ticket to the final two spots on Kansas City’s depth chart at wide receiver. For Gordon, there may be a lot of things he needs to tick off his list during training camp. Chiefs will have to see if he is physically ready to lock down a spot. On the other hand, Andy Reid will be looking to see how he performs in the middle to deep passing game. Can he assert his claim to the Chiefs in a crowded reception hall?

Be on the lookout for more articles on FPC leaders in the coming days. For more sports and NFL content, stay tuned for full press coverage.


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